The Winter's Tale Contents
- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The Theatre
- Ideas of nature
- The pastoral tradition
- The seasons
- Natural and unnatural development
- The nature of humanity
- The higher powers
- Spiritual re-creation
- The plays and playing
The surprise ending
A very particular aspect of the dramatic structure of The Winter's Tale is the revelation that, contrary to what everyone (except Paulina) – including the audience – believes, Hermione has not died after all.
More on the ‘realism' of Hermione's return: Obviously the realism of this is easily questioned:
- Leontes was supposed to view the body
- How is it that nobody noticed what Paulina was up to for sixteen years?
But realism here is irrelevant:
In many of Shakespeare's plays it is not unusual for characters within the play to discover that someone supposedly dead or disappeared has returned:
- Shakespeare had allowed many of the characters within Much Ado About Nothing to think that Hero had died
- Only Sebastian and Antonio in Twelfth Night know that Viola's brother has survived the shipwreck
- In The Tempest Ferdinand thinks he is the only one still alive after the wreck
- People who have disguised themselves turn up again in As You Like It, King Lear, Cymbeline and several other plays
But in each case the audience knows about these false deaths and these disguises.
An unusual discovery
The unusual aspect of The Winter's Tale is that the audience too are not let into the secret. Hence when Hermione's ‘statue' comes to life, the audience are (or should be in a good production, and if they don't already know the play!) as amazed as all the rest of the characters: Shakespeare has deliberately structured the play so that the moment of her ‘resurrection' will have the maximum impact.
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